When most people think of accountants and accounting jobs, they think of someone sitting behind a desk in an office, meeting with clients, and dealing with piles of paperwork. Working from home—without any face-to-face meetings or paper handoffs—might not seem possible.
When I first looked at the possibility of finding an accounting job I could do remotely, the odds didn’t look too good. Most of the accounting jobs that were open to remote work were tax-related, which didn’t align with my current accounting experience and was not the type of job I was interested in. Considering the amount of paperwork staff accountants typically deal with and how closely I worked with others at my in-office job, I figured accounting was out of the question when it came to working remotely.
Fast forward to a few years later…I came across a job opening at Zapier, a 100% distributed company, for an accountant role and knew I had to go for it! I had already set up an office at home that was a happy environment that I was ready to use. I also saw other benefits of being able to work remotely other than utilize my new happy space:
Save time and money by removing the commuting portion of my day: over 13 hours a month on time and $80 a month on my gas and even auto insurance (since I was using my car less, my auto insurer lowered my rate).
Reduce my carbon footprint by at least 2.3 metric tons of CO2 a year!
A chance to benefit my health and well-being. Working from home allows me to make healthier meal choices, work in a cleaner office environment (and I get to control the thermostat!), and use my commuting time to jump on the treadmill every once in a while.
The ability to work from anywhere such as coffee shops, co-working spaces, or visiting friends and family.
I was nervous at first since I didn’t know what to expect. How would an accounting position work in a remote world and how easy would it be to balance my work and home life, since my home was now also my work? Now that I’m six months in, the transition from working in such a paper-heavy environment to a practically paper-free one was easier than I thought. It is possible to have a role that's not traditionally remote-friendly and still thrive.
Working Remotely as an Accountant: Lessons Learned
Meetings: When I worked in an office, I sat through many meetings that were either scheduled or impromptu, and there’s nothing different in a remote setting other than it’s via video conferencing. (Well maybe that and the elimination of having to find a conference room that hasn’t already been booked.) It’s just as easy to have impromptu meetings here at Zapier as it would be in any office. Spin up a Zoom meeting and share the link in your Slack channel and you can have that same sort of spur of the moment meetings, as long as all the participants are online at the same time.
Communication and water cooler moments: Communication is key when it comes to working on a remote accounting team. In my past experiences in working in an office, I would find out information from just hearing other conversations happening around me that gave me context of what was happening with the rest of the team. With remote work, you don’t get that opportunity in the same way. But then there's Slack.
"Default to Transparency" is one of our company values, so it’s good practice to use public channels as the main form of communicating in Slack even if your question is specific to one person. This will help keep the rest of the team in the loop on what others are working on and prevent folks from feeling isolated. Plus, if you have fun Slack channels set up like "#fun-food," you get the same camaraderie as you do in an office, but just at everyone's most convenient times.
Work: As for the accounting aspects of working remotely, I’ve found it’s not much different from working in an office. We still have a weekly team meeting, 1:1 meetings, collaborate on shared files, knock out month-end financials together, and ask for each other’s help/perspective on tasks we are working on. We use a lot of cloud-based apps that allow us to share and work on files together.
With Quickbooks Online we are all able to log in to add in journal entries, run reports, import transactions vs the desktop version which would limit access to one person.
Sharing spreadsheet files are easy with the ability to save Excel files in Box, or use Google Sheets and Excel Online, which both allows for the team to work simultaneously on one file.
We also use Google Docs often when working on writing policies and company announcements. It’s a great way to share your work with the team and allows for everyone to add notes and editing suggestions.
Notejoy is another tool we use to collaborate notes as a whole for the Ops team. We’ve used this tool to track our weekly meeting notes, draft our team’s weekly update post, and save any other notes that would be helpful to share with the team.
Zapier: Creating Zaps (our word for automated workflows between apps) has helped me decrease the time I spend on mundane tasks and helps to keep me up to date on tasks I need to work on. I use one Zap to reduce the amount of time I spend saving invoices that we receive to our box folder, and another to alert me on who has turned in an expense report. And yet another Zap to automatically add cards to my "To Do" Trello board for weekly recurring items.
Save Gmail attachments to Box in their original file format [Business Gmail Accounts Only]
Working remotely may seem like a foreign concept in the accounting world, but when you’re set up with the right applications and an awesome team, it’s totally achievable! (P.S., Zapier's fully remote and hiring.)